Mariah Carey review – no bells but plenty of whistles for the diva

Qantas Credit Union Arena, Sydney
The leading lady of R&B and hair-raising displays of melisma admits to feeling bleak, but still hits all the high notes

Mariah doesn’t need to dance. She doesn’t need zany costumes or elaborate stage props like Miley, Katy or Taylor. Mariah just is.

You may have scoffed at the cheesiness of the diva, but her influence has become so grand she has become a category unto herself. As St Petersburg Times journalist Sean Daly once wrote, watch any reality TV music show these days and you’re bound to come across three types of auditions: the talented kids, the weird kids and the Mariahs.

And so it was at the Sydney stop of her global tour, the Elusive Chanteuse Show, that legions of fans came to witness the Mariah. No bells, just the famous whistle, and at age 43 (or 44, or 45, depending on sources) the question remained: is she still able to hit that almost autotune-like high note?

Happy to be with her fans: Mariah Carey.
Happy to be with her fans. Photograph: Brandon Voight/Splash News/Corbis

After an almost 30-minute fashionably late delay, a video of Ol’ Dirty Bastard popped up on the enormous screen behind her band. The beat dropped, the crowd erupted, a sea of phones lit up the arena and it was a sweet, sweet Fantasy baby.

Wearing a transparent glittering black gown, golden locks framing that ample chest, Carey strut up and down the stage, caressed her body, stood in front of a strategically placed fan for that wind-in-hair effect and moved about minimally while her back-up dancers twisted, head spun and provided most of the movement.

And then the audience witnessed for what reason her physical energy had to be reserved: her third song Emotions, Carey hit that legendary whistle register perfectly – a clean lift that would be the envy of any Olympic weightlifter.

For Cry, off her latest album Me. I Am Mariah ... The Elusive Chanteuse, she was accompanied by a handsome stage dancer – a 2Pac lookalike who lifted her onto a piano like a sultry jazz singer. She sang as he pirouetted around her and a black-and-white prerecorded video of the pair played in the background (evidently her penchant for 90s-style soft porn music clips has not abated).

There were the medley of hits, including Honey, We Belong Together and a rendition of Hero that ran with an editorially jumbled video tribute to celebrities (James Brown, Marilyn Monroe) and world leaders (Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King) interspersed with generic shots of firefighters and international aid workers reminiscent of a Unicef ad.

When she addressed the crowd she admitted to “feeling bleak” before stepping on stage, but now she was just happy to “be around people who care”.

In launching My All she faltered a little, but like many career mistakes before her – Glitter, Charmbracelet, Eminem – she instantly redeemed herself with a trill here, a whispery vocal there and a gentle caress of those signature curves.


Shuk-Wah Chung

The GuardianTramp

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